Race day has finally arrived and chances are you’ve already perfected your training mojo, but the prep work isn’t done just yet. You’ve been preparing for this day for months, maybe more, so don’t let race day distract you from the fact that you still have a little more to do. Here are a few things to do before you get positioned at the starting line.
Fuel Your Body
Whether this is your first race or your 10th, don’t let race day jitters keep you from fueling your body with the proper nutrition. The biggest piece of advice is to never try anything new on race day. While you may be tempted by a new product that a friend recommended to you, you can’t be sure how your body will react to it. Save the experimentation for training to determine the type, quantity, and timing of the nutrition you eat. Keep in mind that everyone is different. Some runners require three hours or more to digest food before a race while others can eat as close as an hour before and be just fine. Find the pre-race meal that works for you and stick to it, but try to limit it to simple carbs and protein such as oatmeal, fruits, vegetables, or eggs. If you’ve found that your body can’t handle solid food before a race, opt for fuel in smoothie form.
Don’t forget about hydration. While races have drink stations, you should be drinking water before the race too but in small increments. Aim for room temperature water consumed at a steady, even pace. A good goal is two to three cups before the race, two during, and at least one after.
The same rule for nutrition applies to your running gear as well: don’t try anything new. If all your training has left your shoes worn down, try to purchase a new pair at least three weeks before the race so you can break them in. As you are getting dressed for race day, avoid the temptation to overdress. Most races start in the morning when it’s cool but once you get going, you’ll quickly feel at least 10 degrees warmer. Wearing too much clothing means you are carrying unnecessary weight, increasing your body temp and risk of dehydration.
The best clothing will allow for a little bit of heat loss, but not to the point that you become uncomfortably cold. Look for clothing that has moisture-wicking technology and zero raised seams that could cause chafing. Even if your race day attire has never caused chafing before, err on the side of caution and apply Vaseline in areas that are prone to rubbing, such as inner thighs and armpits.
When you are running in the cool of morning or in a colder climate, it’s easy to forget that you are still in the sun long enough to get sunburned. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S., so it is imperative that you practice sun safety on your runs. Wear sunscreen of at least 30 SPF or higher and reapply more often than you would on a day by the pool since you will be perspiring. You can still get UV exposure on a cloudy day, so apply sunscreen in areas that aren’t covered by your clothing. If possible, wear a hat to protect your scalp and sunglasses for extra facial protection as well as to prevent squinting.
Sometimes keeping yourself safe is as simple as not overdoing it. During training you found the pace that worked for you, but during a race, seeing people passing you and knowing there are other runners right behind you could kick you into overdrive. While you can’t necessarily do a trial run of the entire race experience, you can prepare ahead of time. Set time goals based on your performance during training. If possible, walk through or at least study the course map. Pacing can become difficult if you encounter terrain that requires higher energy expenditure such as hills. Becoming familiar with the course will enable you to factor terrain changes into your pacing strategy.
It’s an exciting moment when race day finally arrives, but don’t forget the extra prep work to ensure you are able to safely complete the race. Fuel and prepare your body so you can enjoy the thrill of crossing the finish line. If you still need to do some more training, find an area that will help you maximize your efforts. This post has some great suggestions. If you’re all set, have a great race!